Sun Parade Hasn't Yet Dawned

* * ½  

When I hear The Sun Parade I need a pinch to remind me that these guys are based in western Massachusetts. Everything about them screams “California,” including the falsetto vocals, the atmospheric tunes, the bouncy rhythms, the ahh, ahhh, ahh bridging vocals, and–yes–the sunny nature of their material. The duo consists of guitarist/lead vocalist Chris Marlon Jennings (who also plays keyboards) and Jefferson Lewis, who plays just about anything that has strings. Songs such as “Nothing Lasts Forever” have a soft rock groove reminiscent bands such America. In fact, The Sun Parade are quite a lot like America, with one very big exception–one that some might find a deal breaker–they don’t have America’s sense of catchy pop hooks. A song such as “Sometimes Sunny,” for instance, has the same bright acoustic guitar strums and runs, but it doesn’t linger very long because too many of the offerings are interchangeable.

One small change that might help: Jennings and Lewis tend to sing in unison; more complex harmonies would add depth. One hears hints of this in “Need You By My Side,” one of the album’s better tracks. The Sun Parade’s repertoire could use more arrangements that are energetic rather than enervating. It also needs more discrimination between the instrumentation and Jenning’s soft vocals.  Simple arrangements such as the opening ukulele-driven strains of “Waiting for Life to Drastically Change” work much better than its more heavily instrumented bridge. Stripped down it sounds like an acoustic Beatles’ offering; textured it doesn’t have much identity at all. It’s possible that Jennings may have a better voice for country music. I hear this in pre-refrain parts of “Pickin’ My Pockets.” (It’s hard not to find the ohh-hhh-ooh refrain kind of juvenile.) My favorite track was “Oh No,” which is quiet, moody, and uses bouncy orchestration to invoke an “Eleanor Rigby” like sense of desperation.

Okay, maybe I’m too much of a jaded East Coast guy and none of what I see as shortcomings would bother folks on the Left Coast. But my current bottom line is this: I admire what these young guys are trying to do. They are talented and may have a very bright future. But “young” is the watchword of this review. There’s not enough depth, variety, or edge to the music and too much reliance upon easy-out tricks to (try to) cover the holes. As a reminder that new talent is on the horizon, Yossis has its pleasures, but Sun Parade hasn’t yet dawned.-- Rob Weir

Don’t take my word for all of this. The Sun Parade offers several free tracks from this release that you can hear at: http://thesunparade.bandcamp.com/

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